Sarasota city commissioner approves partnership with Van Wezel for a new performing arts center


The Sarasota City Council has voted to partner with the Van Wezel Foundation to design, fund and create a new performing arts center.

The project is expected to cost about $300-$350 million, with half of the funding coming from private philanthropy and the other half from public sources.

At the April 4 committee meeting, the proposed partnership was approved by a 3-2 vote, with Mayor Erik Arroyo and Commissioner Jen Ahren-Koch voting against.

Both said there was something in the plan they didn’t understand.

Arroyo said the joint venture was “a lot of money” and he hoped the committee would pull out if it ultimately didn’t pan out.

“Our goal as a committee should be to be able to back out of the deal when things go wrong with the bonds, and if things don’t go as planned, they can’t raise the money they want. Say they’re going to get a raise,” he said.

City Attorney Robert Fournier suggested there should be more details in the plan about who the money will go to and how it will be paid.

“The implementation protocol, when it comes back, should not only detail how [the total project cost] is derived, but it should also spell out the timeline for donations and make it clear when the money is due,” Fournier said.

He added that the site development plan cannot be submitted if the implementation agreement is not approved. When they signed the agreement, he called it a “protection” for the committee.

Performing Arts Center Will be the centerpiece of the redevelopment of the 53-acre bay into a cultural and economic center called Park by the Bay.

Commissioner Jen Aheran-Koch expressed doubts about locating a performing arts center on that particular site.

“it [the area] It can be reused, it can be reimagined, it can be re-integrated into the future of the performing arts hall,” she said. “But language [of this agreement] This is not guaranteed, nor is funding for this guaranteed. “

Partners of the Van Wezel Foundation expressed support for the proposal and spoke about the foundation’s services to Sarasota.

Sarasota said: “The Van Weizer Foundation is more than a performing arts center, it supports thousands of people through free programs, workshops, family engagement nights, and performance visits to schools and main stages, wherever How affordable is it,” said Sarasota resident and Van Wezel educator Maria Schaedler-Luera.

“The foundation is not a new partner—they have been a partner (of the city) for 35 years,” said Micheal Klauber, a member of the Bay Park Conservancy who led the redevelopment envisioning process.

But others, such as local resident Cathy Antunes, expressed similar concerns as commissioners.

“It’s too much,” she said. “It leaves the city without real numbers. Slow down, do research, get numbers.”

The Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall will continue to operate until the new Sarasota Performing Arts Center is completed. The city will create a blue ribbon committee to determine the future of the hall.

The Van Wezel Foundation will also begin changing its name to the Sarasota Performing Arts Center Foundation.


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